Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm a Headless Chicken

This is no theological rant, this is no general revelation, this is a personal moment that I’d like to share with anyone that knows me and this page.

I do not like snakes…I think they are gross and I am very scared of them. I don’t even like to look at books with pictures of them. I especially hate watching videos of them because it always seems that the money shot is of the snake attacking the camera. Ewww, I hate snakes. When I was a kid, growing up in Florida, I used to patrol the yard before I would mow the grass with a couple shovels looking for them because I wanted to kill them. If you are an animal lover and are already offended just keep reading and get over it, I was a kid. I still have a very vivid image of a particular day in my mind. Even as I write this I can feel myself wanting to leap from my chair, my toes are curled up, and my shoulders are tense. I finished my perusing of the yard and found no foe to slay so I continue to bring out the lawnmower. To my surprise a large snake burst from underneath the mower. My first reaction was to give him the good ol’ kibosh, down with the shovel. Now I hold the head of a snake in my shovel that should be dead. It is still opening its mouth and doing its tongue thing though. We’ve all heard the phrase of running around like a chicken with its head cut off too. I’ve seen it, it’s real. No, I am not in a morbid mood, something just hit me the other day while thinking about my life and where I find myself.

Where am I? Well, I am in a big transition place right now. In January of this year I left the church that I moved up here to help start, Indy Metro, to help another person with another church plant, Response. At Metro I had structured learning, accountability, and plenty of challenges from older men to grow. At Response I had a vibrant community of fellow believers I had relationships with. Now I am trying to find a place where Julia (my girlfriend) and I can grow together at. We are going to journey though the rest of this life together so we need to be growing together as well. Because of recent circumstances and such I have not been able to attend a Sunday gathering regularly or the Wed night house church we began to attend together. So I am in a totally new community and don’t know anyone and cannot be consistent in the times when they do gather. Paul makes this beautiful parallel between the body and the church. He lays it out that every part of the body is dependant upon the rest of the body. The heart needs the hand, the foot needs the eye, the mouth needs the stomach, etc. What happens to the body as a whole is clear when a piece is missing, it does not operate at full capacity. But what about the part that is missing or sick, how is it affected by not being whole and connected to the rest of the body?

Remember that chicken’s body just running around without a head? Well, it’s disconnection from vital organs and things that make it live causes it to still have nerve endings that are being stimulated that send signals that recreated actions that are stored in muscle memory. This disconnected part is actually dead, but still running around due to the last memories of nerve impulses and muscle memory. If there was some way to miraculously reconnect the head, nerves, blood vessels, and other necessary things that would make a clean and efficient reconnection, then everything would level out again and the chicken would begin to act and operate as it was made to, things would make sense. I’m watching myself run around like it’s crazy because I am disconnected from the body, the church. Getting reconnected is miraculous and in Christ it is possible, just going through the process to find the community and friends is taking its toll on me and I’m running around like crazy. I don’t have any older men speaking wisdom into my life, I don’t have a bunch of people that I consistently hang out with that are encouraging in my faith, I do not have any connections that I need. This transition is necessary because what is most important is being a good husband in the future and us growing together, but it is just hard.

So please pray that I can be calm during this transition and not give up, not be down, and not run around like I’m missing my head.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Socrates was right...

“An unexamined life is not worth living.” –Socrates

I entered the world Oct 18, 1983 and 26 years have passed. Naked Anniversaries are celebrated in different ways. Some people do not like to celebrate them at all, for them that celebration almost solidifies their aging and time behind them, they mark another year closer to becoming old. I see things a bit different from that view. It would be an accurate statement to call me a thinker or analytical. I use these birthdays to reflect on my life. Yesterday was a good day, full of reflection and expression of progression. My biological father came in town for the weekend, I visited the church I moved up here to help start, I really thought about how much I appreciate my parents, hung out with an old friend, and had some rich conversation and spent time with my girl J.

My mom and dad divorced when I was pretty young and then there was a 15 year gap of no contact with my dad. I hated that man for along time because I didn’t understand a lot of things and allowed bitterness and unforgiveness to dictate my attitude. So after 15 years of never spending any time with him I found myself at 4am sitting in a white castle across from him. I was very nervous about him coming to town. We had been in contact over the email for several months that eventually lead to this trip being planned. Although I didn’t plan for it to be on my birthday weekend, it is no accident or coincident that it did. He came in on a Greyhound Bus and arrived in Indianapolis at 3:20am. I arrived around 4:30am because I overslept though. I searched the bus station for a man I hadn’t seen in a very long time. I could not see anyone close to what I remember him looking like or what I imagined. We had discussed 24 hour food places over the email a couple times, so I walked over to white castle thinking he may have walked over there. I walked in and saw him sitting in the back. My heart raced as I faced a man that I never thought I’d see or spend time with again. After small talk we got back to my apartment, he could not check into his hotel until noon, and chat some more. That chat quickly turns from small talk to deep talk. A lot of old feelings and questions were drug back out of me. I didn’t anticipate having the conversation this weekend, although I knew it would come up, and I didn’t bring him to Indianapolis to attack him or corner him. The conversation heated up and I got a lot off my chest and said things to him that I needed to say. Don’t get the wrong picture though, my speech came form a place of love and peace. I had been working on my forgives issue with him within myself for a couple years before this. After I said what I needed to say and we talked and he answered some questions it seems like the nervousness and tension disappeared. I spent Saturday showing him my life, my city, and re-introducing him to me and who I was now. Sunday was cool because I was able to actually ask about him and get to know him a little bit better. It was a good time and I think something God had been stirring in me for years. It was the pinnacle of forgiveness, reconciliation, and progression for me. As I reflected on all this I just thanked God and smiled as I knew that, as hard as it all has been, I was doing the will of God.

“Did my doctor tell you something I should know?” That’s the message I received from my step dad, Danny early in the afternoon Saturday. After my deep talk with my biological father, Alan, I really reflected and realized how appreciative I was of my mom and Danny as well. I sent them a text message that said something along the lines of, “I love you and appreciate all you’ve done for me.” That was a good place to be in, a place of appreciation and love. I think it was a growing point in my relationship with them as well. I think it is important for parents to be told how much they are loved and appreciated by their adult children in response to reflection.

Yesterday, Sunday, I woke up, went to Julia’s and ate some breakfast and waited for her to get ready. After that we began quite the adventurous day. We went to church at Indy Metro because the church community gathering we attend normally was doing community service and painting a building so I figured it wouldn’t be cool to have a visitor come with us and paint, plus I wanted to show him the church that I helped start. After church we went to lunch and a friend and his lady, Andrew & Chirsten, came with. We went to Taste in Broad Ripple. If you have never been or you are visiting Indy, I’d suggest you go, your life and taste buds will be expanded and enriched! Then we all went to Waterman’s Farm and Fall festival type deal. We took a hey ride, got lost in the corn maze, and picked out own pumpkins. I dropped everyone off at their respectable locations and got in a little quiet time for myself at Starbucks, actually got some reading done in a book I’ve been wanting to finish. I met up with my dad Alan for dinner and then after that went to bed. So that is what was on the itinerary yesterday. But back to Indy Metro. Julia said she felt like she was with the popular kid in school because I knew everyone. I don’t say this to boast, but say it with joy because God used me to impact people and they remember and actually like me. I remember still sitting in living rooms and coffee shops dreaming about what Indy Metro would look like, the early days when 6 of us would just talk about it while trying to manage our own ways around a new city, to us at least, Indianapolis. The building was very full and the crowd was very diverse. It was cool to see something that I was once part of getting started and off the ground flourish.

Julia and I were talking about how much fun Sunday was when she made the statement, “I think Andrew is one of your few true friends.” That statement brings joy to my heart, it’s a good thing for me to think on. I’ve gone through a lot of questioning of “friendships” lately so it is good to hear from my best friend that she sees another friend in my life. That statement alone made me think about all Andrew and I had been through. When I first met Andrew, it was at a Starbucks. Someone had given my name through Indy Metro as a way to get plugged in and connected. He was going through a rough time and for the next several months we spent a lot of time together, eating taco bell, watching football, going to The Living Room, and jumping out of airplanes. It was cool to reflect on where our friendship had been and interesting to see the dynamic of it change. Overall though, it was very cool to reflect on a good friend and our friendship. We even made plans to take them to our favorite restaurant an upcoming weekend!

I can say from a very sober, logical, and seasoned mind that Julia is my best friend. We have such great conversations and she helps me grow in ways she doesn’t even know. Trough out all this reflection, last year, and most recent life transition, the most consistent thing besides God has been Julia. Our relationship has truly become what I would call rich. Just reflecting on all the above made me think of her being in my life so much and being so supportive of me.

Overall it was a great weekend full of reflection. This morning, as I rode to work in complete silence, like I normally do, I just thanked God for all He had done in my life. I have a ton to be thankful for and see these last 26 years as ones that have molded me into who I am today. Socrates was on to something when he made that statement. An unexamined life is not worth living, it is great to reflect, learn, grow, and be thankful.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wanted: Solitude

Beep…Beep…Beep…Beep. In a swift, ninja-like move, the snooze button silences the world for 2-8 minutes before the grind begins. A friend once pondered if there was ever a point in life that you actually feel the pull of gravity or the reality of our earth spinning on its axis at a slight tilt. Everything is moving so fast. There is twitter, facebook, and other social networking sites, instant messenger programs, ways to track people on their cell phones, ability to watch television from a cell phone, and so much more that can keep one going, spinning, faster and faster, daily. Sleep is seen as an inconvenience. I used to go three days at a time with no sleep because I could just so much more done if I didn’t sleep. The early pioneers of the internet prescribed that wed be able to do the same amount of wok with less man hours with the internet. I eventually would pass out, exhausted, and sleep for days at a time. The internet has enslaved us to never ending information and flow of even more work. Eventually we will sleep out of necessity because our bodies have been so wonderfully made that we require it. Sleeping does not allow one to consciously realize that hey are at rest. So from the time we wake until we fall asleep we are running on the treadmill of consciousness that never ends. If the body needs rest so does the mind, the spirit, the soul. Rest, quite, solitude, slowing down, do these words seem foreign to you? Are they things you long for but do not feel you are able to do?

A spiritual discipline that is not often practiced, yet very powerful is simple, solitude. Whether in principle or practice solitude has its place in every life. Many people, mostly my generation, the over caffeinated, over stimulated, under rested ones, cringe at the idea of solitude. A nice lady suggested in class one night this weekend retreat place for everyone. It was far removed from society and very quiet. Some people also like living in the suburbs. I am not a solitude person in terms described above nor am I ever some one you will see enjoying the safety of a nice quiet neighborhood in the ‘burbs somewhere. This is not to take away from the need for solitude though. Solitude is not one thing, solitude can paint itself a different color on any canvas, in any life. A turbo charger is a simple and very prevailing bolt on for most vehicles. The turbo charger sucks in air very fast, creates pressure, and then blows it out for better performance. That is the most simple definition of a turbo charger you will ever find. There is so much pressure that if their were no release valve or exhaust that it would blow up, many teenagers do this on their parents buck. My mind runs like a turbo charged engine, my blog is the only exhaust I have. Solitude for me is sitting at a low key coffee shop, with my headphones blaring some classical music, reading and writing. I can not sit and be quiet because I feel my mind begins to wander and I cannot focus. I need loud music to block thoughts from my mind. It is there, at a corner table in a local coffee shop, headphones screaming, and fingers typing where I find my solitude most. I also journal. Some people do not see this as solitude, some people think I need quiet nature walks. Everyone is open to their opinion, but if you took my solitude mechanisms away from me I’d go crazy. The point here is that solitude may look different in practice for everyone, but solitude in principle does not change. Solitude is a way to center yourself, slow down and reflect. Reflection is where salvation begins so it is very important to reflect. We need to process this fast paced world and rest, whatever that looks like.

My suggestion is to follow the example of Jesus in principle, not practice. Jesus practiced solitude a lot, He practiced it within a certain atmosphere, unique personality, and specific time. Unless one can reproduce these circumstances, personalities, and times without flaw it is a failing thought to even attempt to follow Jesus’ example of solitude as a model. A quick read through any Gospel would reveal Jesus was always separating Himself and getting alone with the Father. Plane tickets are expensive right now and I don’t own a Delorian to zap myself back in time, so I cannot do what Jesus did. However, I can practice the principle that exposes itself in His life and ministry, solitude. Everyone needs to slow down and think, no matter who you are, no one can handle the amount of information coming down our path, nor the life circumstances we do not plan. To avoid becoming overwhelmed we need rest, we were designed to rest, our bodies do it naturally. We have been taught unhealthy things in our lifetime that negate this idea of solitude, but deep within us all our souls are screaming for rest, solitude, and time to reflect. I pray you will find what it is that brings you to this place, I pray you can find rest with the Father like Jesus did, in your own way, and I pray that you can be at peace with life, love God, and love people.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blind Seers

Do you ever what the point of this reading, studying, praying, getting close to God stuff is about? Well, for most of my early years following Jesus I thought it was about getting to a certain point of maturity or understanding that translated into perfect living. Avoid all the sin, do all the good, and you would be set, a good Christian, it’s just that easy. So in just three payments of $19.99 you can have the perfect Christian lifestyle! Well, that Price is not right and that logic falls flat on its face. There is this sense of guilt when we fail to meet our envisioned destination, a sense of never being able to be right, get right, or act right. Finding myself, often times, walking around with a heavy burden of failure this abundant life lost its flare and become more of an oppressive ideology than liberating life. Instead of enjoying the abundance from life with God we are too busy worrying about arriving at that destination of good or becoming the perfect Christian. Is this really what Jesus was after? Is this what being a disciple of Jesus looks like?

I was reading the gospel according to John yesterday morning and I found that the answer is no. The Biblical answer to wanting to become all knowing and understanding is actually no. This is huge, ground breaking because it flips a lot of modern ideology on its head. “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind…If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now you claim you can see, your guilt remains (John 9:39-41).” What? How can blind see and those who see be blind? I really try to shed any presumptions I have when reading this stuff, I really want to understand it as it was meant to be understood. Context, it’s truly all about context. What is the environment in which these words were spoke and what did they mean to that environment? After answering this one can begin to understand things that a 3 point sermon with rhyming points may miss.

The Pharisees were this Holy Roller type group of cats who stood firm on the Law, the Law being all that was spoken to Moses at Sinai. They were so committed to this law that they over looked everything else. Obsession is probably the best word to describe their infatuation with this law. Their obsession led them to respond to a man who was born blind that could now see like this, “This man is not from God for he does not keep the Sabbath.” Warm-hearted is not a word I’d use to describe these guys, they were brutal. Reading through the little scuffle between this man and the Pharisees reveals how crazy it all is. They go back and forth on who Jesus is and how he (the blind man) received his sight. “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing,” the man said. To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. That last statement by the Pharisees implies a lot. They are implying that they were not steeped in sin from birth, that they somehow had reached a level of maturity or spirituality that is far greater than any sinner could. They had arrived at a destination. The religious culture of that day ate it up too. The Pharisees were like local celebrities, so holy and upright, in all their ways. Jesus blows through town and ruins all that. I don’t believe Jesus was in the optometry business and couldn’t have cared so much that He came to only give sight to blind people and cruelly make all people with sight blind. That cannot be taken literally, so what does it mean? If you look at this man in the text, he is not religious, not a scholar, and in no way a Pharisee, he had not arrived, and didn’t claim too. In the middle of the Pharisees deep questioning of whether Jesus was a sinner or not the man simply says, I don’t know, but I know I can see now. The blind man could now see because of Jesus. The Pharisees were now being told that if they were blind they would not be guilty of sin; if is a big word here. It entails that the Pharisees are not blind, but actually see (or so they say). Jesus is saying that those who do not have it all figured out, have not arrived, are not religiously elite, are the ones who will really see. They are blind by all means and can only see because of Jesus. The ones that can comfortably say, I don’t know, but all I do know is that I once was blind, but now I see. Seeing Jesus is life. Those who claim to see, the Pharisees, the religious elite, the ones who have arrived, will actually be blinded, Jesus will shut them off, their arrogant intelligence is actually blinding them from life, from seeing Jesus.

If all that is true then the point of following Jesus cannot be to figure it all out or arrive at the spiritual pinnacle of understanding because it is there that Jesus says, you are just blind. Maybe this entire journey is about seeing Jesus, accepting His healing, His sight, and living our lives as a response to it. Seems to be all about humility to me, staying humble as we follow Christ.
We will mature along the way, but we will never arrive or have it all figured out. Maybe we should be more weary of arriving than trying to pursue it. This is not to say learning is not important. I say that education is the hinge on which humanity swings. Education of what is to be debated, but the principle remains. Education, maturing, learning, they are all means to an end. That end is not to arrive or figure it out though. The end that is justified by the means is to simply follow Jesus, rely on Him, and to never allow your knowledge to glorify yourself, but Him. There are so many kind hearted, Jesus loving people out there who just give up on their faith or maturing because they do not think they can be like the religiously elite around them. To these people I say, Jesus doesn’t want you to ever say that you see, that you’ve got it all figured out, and always look to Him for sight and understanding. May you seek Jesus, follow Him, and learn about Him. May you live in response to Jesus’ abundant life and sight offered, and may you see that being blind is actually they best place you can be because Jesus says you will see.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Tunnel Ends

Almost done…keep pushing…the light is becoming brighter…I can see the light at the end of the tunnel…

That’s what I keep telling myself as I continue my journey at Crossroads Bible College. I only have a handful of classes left and my excitement to be done is somewhat bittersweet. Academic studies have exhausted, scarred, and enriched me all at once. I’m ready to be done and I will be in May! I filed my petition for graduation last night and am starting to get all the details aligned in preparation for what will be the pinnacle of my collegiate success. I find myself scarred because I can never look at the Bible, faith, and the church the same again. I was more ignorant before I began my studies and the knowledge has exposed me to daunting truths. I’ve been doing more unlearning than learning I say. Unlearning what the religious traditions and heritage of American Christianity has taught me as much as possible while stile operating within the context. I have been so enriched by it all though and made many connections through being involved at this college.

I started a new class last night and unlike my last class of two, which was more like a private tutoring session than anything, this class was full of 27 people, who all bring their own unique stories and faith experiences. The unique mixture at my table was that of a veteran and rookie. I have 4 classes left to graduate and he was attending his first class ever. There are always off the wall comments made in any situation with more than one person that leave me confused or reflecting. One thing I noticed last night, even though there were things that annoyed me that people said, did, and did not do, was the diversity; diversity racially, socioeconomic, back ground, personal environments and most obvious, diversity of gifts. One was a preacher, one was an encourager, one was an encourager, one was into musical worship, and the list goes on and on. I found myself full of this peaceful sense that God would use this kind of diversity to affect our local environments with Himself. Amidst all these unique personalities and gifts was also a ton of potential. Most were in the first couple of classes working towards a degree so I am excited to see God shaped them by education and the challenges that being at an institution such as Crossroads brings.

So now I find myself not being as vocal and listening more and see others stepping up to where I left off in that department. I just sit back and wonder what they will all look like in a couple years after the programs are done and degree has been awarded…Exhausted, scarred, and enriched I pray. I hope that they will be as impacted by it all as I have been and learn how to use what God has given them (personality, gift, understanding, etc.) for a redemptive life, full of love.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Maginfying Glass God- The Attachment/Detachment Principle

This deserves an ominous musical introduction or something gnarly like the canon D in electric guitar. Metallic should be blaring and Ozzy Osborne should be walking down the red carpet escorting this…As you begin to see a silhouette of something coming towards you, your heart beats faster with anticipation, and you can smell the pheromones released by the boost in adrenaline flooding your body. What is this?

Dun Dun Dun…Spiritual discipline…What fills your mind as you hear this word?

Prayer, fasting, read your bible, rules, oppression, etc. Any of these come to mind? We had a discussion in class the other night about spiritual discipline and the one comment made that got my mind going, “The world is about attachment, but Christianity is about detachment.” This means that Christianity is about detaching from things as a spiritual discipline and the rest of the world religions or agnostic affiliations are about attaching disciplines, supplementing their lives instead of shedding weight. I have always had a unique, often times controversial way of considering everything from an opposite perspective than the majority. While the rest of the class agreed with this statement I sat there seeing things differently. American Christianity is a religion. There are those followers of Christ who still see it as a movement, but those numbers are few and those people are seen as insubordinate or extreme. Within the religion folks do see it as a detachment principle based environment. Take away the bad things of life and good things will happen. Don’t curse, don’t have sex before marriage, don’t gossip, don’t yada yada yada, do you get the picture? No wonder the average American doesn’t want anything to do with Jesus…they are told He takes everything away. No good music, no fun, no this, no that, don’t do that either… It pains me to see the picture those who do not know Jesus are given of Him. He is a prude, a bore, not someone many want to know.

So what would those say life is, when do they feel they are alive? Laughing, loving, dancing, going to a good concert, etc. If Jesus takes away things that they believe give them life, why would they want to know Jesus?

I say Jesus is not about detachment, but more about attachment. I say following Jesus requires you pick up more than you lie down. That does not mean following or knowing Him is as simple as large smiles and nice suites say it is on TV though. If you have a penny and you find a brick of gold, you always will pick up the gold over the penny, even though it is heavier, because it is more valuable. I think Jesus should be present and painted in this light more often.

The reason for all the do not’s in following Jesus are an effect of the do’s. Does this make sense? The reason we die to ourselves is not because Jesus is a demented guy or that God is like some angry kid with an ant and a magnifying glass on a sunny day, it’s because He offers true life, abundant life. So if this new abundant life is actually abundant, why is so much taken away, if we operate by the detachment principle? The way I see it is Jesus offers gold and we pick it up as we drop our pennies, so attaching ourselves to Him and His ways causes a natural effect of a new direction and no so much dropping or detaching. So rather than rules and an un-cool Jesus we see a really liberating Jesus who offers a better life full of attachments and new possibilities. The Ten commandments were rules of don’ts and do’s, they were detachment principles, but they were given to show them they couldn’t operate under detachment and Jesus Himself said that if we adopt two principles everything else will follow. If we adopted loving God and loving our neighbor all the other commandments hang on those. We can detach so much as to no longer sin? Can we detach so much to be good? No. We attach ourselves to Jesus and God and become new, more brilliant creations that operate on attachment, rather than detachment.

I pray this view of things is helpful and I pray that you attach yourself to Jesus and encourage others to live a lifestyle of attachment rather than detachment. May you see Jesus and present Him as a loving God full of abundant life to give and not a prude mean God wanting us to follow a set of rules.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Me...what's going on

“I am a failure, I am broken, I am scared, I am lost, I am excited, I am anxious, I am fearful of my future and ashamed of my past, but most importantly I am loved, I am forgiven, I am redeemed.”

I kept repeating that over and over to myself as I walked back to work. I’m at a new point in my life, a point of identity crisis, which is very painful and wonderful all at the same time. I had a meeting with someone today to let him know who I was. I wanted to let him know who I was because I think it is important for people to know who is involved in their community. So I let him know where I’d been and where I am now. Where I am going is the great mystery though. I find myself at a weird spot a crossroads of sorts, wrestling my past, present, and future. The result is exhaustion. I walked away feeling good, I let him know 100% who I was and where I’d been. I walked away feeling insecure, I let him know 100% who I was and where I’d been.

Insight struck me like one of the cars passing by had lost control and pinned my to the ground which for me was reality. Reality is just like the road, hard, unforgiving, and painful to be slammed into. The reality is that I am not who I used to be and that I am becoming a different person, my lifestyle and preferences are changing. I am not who I was, but I am unsure of who I am, so naturally I try to relate to who I was, which is not who I am anymore. When will this end, when will I stop going through all this, maybe when I feel like I belong again. Right now I do not have a sense of purpose. I am desperately looking for that and maybe that is what all this stems from. My identity does not come from what I do though, it comes from who I am and who I am is a forgiven child of God. I am being taken through a life transition right now and need to be patient for understanding and purpose. So if you think to, please pray with me for a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, and a sense of peace for where I find myself right now…please pray that I have patience to wait for that to happen in His time and not mine.